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A smart strategy for pain management: How to navigate your risk of opioid dependence

Opioids is a term used to describe compounds that are extracted from seeds of the opium poppy plant or synthetic compounds with same properties. These substances are very effective for pain relief because they block the transmission of pain signals between the body and the brain. The Centers for Disease Control has developed guidelines for physicians and patients to decrease risks when taking these medications.

There are several different names for these painkillers including heroin, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, methadone and tramadol. Although these drugs are effective for pain control, improper dosage may cause breathing difficulties, drug dependence or death. In the USA, deaths from opioid overdose increased 120% between 2010 and 2018 according to National Center on Health Statistics.

Tips for safer opioid use

While opioids can significantly reduce pain, they should be used with caution. People can accidentally become dependent on the medication or can overdose unintentionally.

To begin, work with your doctor to establish realistic goals for pain relief. For some conditions like a bone fracture, the pain should decrease after three days, so a prescription for this time period should be sufficient.  Aim for taking opioids for the shortest time period that is effective or try using non-opioid pain relief methods first to see if they work. Be sure your doctor knows about any other medications being taken so he or she can check for potentially dangerous interactions.

If a long-term course of opioids is needed, set up a therapy agreement that outlines how often the opioids can be taken. Get all of your medications from the same doctor and same pharmacy to avoid getting too much medication. Schedule regular checkups so your doctor can monitor the opioid doses. Don’t suddenly decide to stop taking the opioids without the doctor’s help. It is better to slowly taper off the doses to avoid potentially dangerous side effects.

Alternative methods of pain reliefImage licensed by Shutterstock

To avoid opioid risks, try other pain relief methods first. Since some pain is caused by inflammation, taking  anti-inflammatory medication like Motrin or Aleve can often provide pain relief. These medications can be taken with acetaminophen like Tylenol to provide further relief. Talk with your doctor for suggestions of effective non-opioid medications.

Another method of addressing pain are injections of anesthetics called “nerve blocks” that numb a painful area for up to 18 hours. This method is often effective after operations.

Finally, there are many therapeutic treatments that can relieve pain including physical therapy, massage, ice packs and relaxation techniques. Working with an experienced therapist is the best way to learn how to use these treatments.

Importance of pain management during recovery

Managing pain following surgery or other medical events is crucial for recovery. Pain can affect sleep, movement and the ability to think clearly. Uncontrolled pain can dramatically slow recovery. For the best level of pain control and the fastest possible recovery time, consider recovering at a short-term care facility following a hospital stay. Whitehall of Deerfield has earned a reputation for providing top-notch care in an attractive, resort-like environment. Guests at Whitehall of Deerfield have experienced staff to help manage your pain using progressive treatments from medications to massage to exercise. No matter what time of day the pain occurs, there is a staff member ready to help relieve the pain. The goal at Whitehall of Deerfield is always to help their guests return to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible.

Whitehall of Deerfield has consistently received Medicare’s highest rating in Medicare’s five-star rating system of nursing and post-hospital rehabilitation centers. Whitehall of Deerfield is also ranked among the top 1% of all Illinois post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers by Newsweek — and has consistently received both U.S. News & World Report’s and Medicare’s highest five-star rating. Learn more about the individualized, one-on-one therapy programs, world-class amenities and COVID-19 safety measures by visiting WhitehallofDeerfield.com or calling 847-945-4600.

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600